Ends of Canada

On December 15, 2016 · 0 Comments

My Ends of the Earth wandering reminded me of an earlier Google Street View quest. A long time ago, way back in 2010, Twelve Mile Circle included an article I called The Shack at the End of the Road. This marked the northernmost extreme of Street View coverage in Canada at that time. I wondered about who lived there and whether they minded this invasion of their privacy. However nothing lasts forever so it seemed a fitting time to see if things had changed. It turned out that the resident of this shack no longer lived at the Canadian coverage extreme. Somewhere in the preceding years the spot shifted to Tuktut Nogait National Park, to a latitude of 69.34° north. The shack lost its notoriety.

A Very Remote Street View


Tuktut Nogait National Park
Tuktut Nogait National Park
via Google Street View, August 2014

Parks Canada described Tuktut Nogait as "one of the most isolated national parks in North America." The closest population lived 40 kilometres away by air in the tiny, isolated hamlet of Paulatuk. The nearest sizable town fell another 420 km farther west beyond that at Inuvik. Visitors getting into trouble in this park faced perilous odds. Help would not arrive quickly. Nonetheless and inexplicably, this site included a modicum of Street View coverage. Specifically, images fell into three separate clusters scattered broadly across the park. The northernmost spot overlooked the impressive Brock River canyon, a place so remote that it remained nearly unmentioned on Internet searches I conducted.

I needed to include an asterisk. No streets led to these absolutely gorgeous views from such an isolated Canadian park in the High Arctic of the Northwest Territories. Technically it didn’t quite meet the definition of a "street" view. A man carrying a specially-designed camera backpack captured those images. However, this wasn’t a unique, one-time effort. Canada and Google collaborated to provide Street View coverage for many Canadian parks. Google visited over 200 locations as part of this project. Parks Canada mentioned several primary benefits including virtual visits and dreaming, education and learning and trip planning. Clearly the 12MC effort fell into that first category.

That left some hope that the shack might retain its title.


Cambridge Bay


North Warning Site Cambridge Bay 02
North Warning Site Cambridge Bay. Photo by Alan Sim on Flickr (cc)

Then I found Cambridge Bay, a settlement that grew around military facilities designed to warn against Soviet bomber attacks during the Cold War. They required construction and maintenance. Military personnel deployed there needed basic services. This opened rare employment opportunities for local Inuit inhabitants so a town sprang to life around it.

The Municipality of Cambridge Bay stood on the edge of Victoria Island, in the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut. It seemed an unlikely location for Street View. Sure, it was the biggest settlement within hundreds of kilometres, housing nearly 1,500 residents. However no road connected it to the outside world. Cambridge Bay appeared as a blue dot completely isolated from any other Street View coverage area.

It came with a story though. A local resident petitioned Google to travel to Cambridge Bay in 2012. The New York Times described the results in "Coming Soon, Google Street View of a Canadian Village You’ll Never Drive To."

There are no cars in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Aside from a few trucks, snowmobiles are the preferred form of transportation for much of the year in the hamlet high in the Canadian Arctic… All that would suggest that Google Street View has limited value there. But a pitch to Google from an Inuit man brought a tricycle fitted with Google’s camera system to the streets of Cambridge Bay on Monday as part of what the company expects to become a long-term project in Canada’s Far North… as a way to educate the rest of the world about the region.

Cambridge Bay wasn’t as far north as the other spot in Tuktut Nogait although it was farther north than the original shack, and it had actual streets.


Yet Another Shack at the End of a Different Road


Cambridge Bay
Outside of Cambridge Bay
via Google Street View, August 2012

Most of the Street View coverage for Cambridge Bay fell within the confines of town. I searched for the clusters of children on bicycles rumored to have followed the Street View tricycle mentioned in the article. However, I didn’t find any. It looked really cold too, with people wearing jackets even during August. Coverage didn’t make it very far out of town — after all the tricycle chosen for this endeavor relied upon human-powered peddling — although the biker did head northeast another two or three kilometres. I worked my way up to the northernmost point where the final image of Cambridge Bay ended. There I spotted a little green dot on the distant horizon. Was it a billboard of some kind, maybe the boundary of a military property?

I drilled down and found… another shack! I crowned a new king.

Wildlife Corridors

On December 4, 2016 · 2 Comments

Wildlife corridors do exactly what they imply, they provide safe passage for animals. Devices like these became increasingly important as pristine wilderness succumbed to development or urbanization. Without them animal populations became isolated even if protected within parks. This impacted genetic diversity and the overall health of local species. Further problems occurred when animals tried to travel from one safe space to another. They trampled over farmers’ fields or suburban backyards. They died crossing busy roadways. The National Wildlife Federation estimated, for example, "on U.S. highways, a vehicle hits an animal at least every 26 seconds."

A wildlife corridor can correct those issues. Solutions exists at various levels, from vast regional or even transnational fixes, all the way down to the hyper-local. Twelve Mile Circle decided to focus on a few examples from around the globe.

Siju-Rewak Elephant Corridor


Elephants in Meghalaya, along the Siju Rewak Elephany Corridor
Elephants in Meghalaya, along the Siju Rewak Elephany Corridor.
Photo by Neelima v on Flickr (cc)

Indian elephants represented the largest population of three distinct subspecies of Asian elephants. However the population dropped drastically during the 20th Century. The last century began with about a hundred thousands animals. Yet it ended with maybe a quarter of that. Habitat loss, human pressures and population fragmentation further limited Indian elephants to perhaps 15% of their historical range. This made corridors vital to their survival.

If you look at a map depicting the distribution of the elephant today, you will see a shattered kingdom, a vastly reduced range broken into fragments, a few drops of colour splashed accidentally on a worn out South Asian fabric. This is the tragedy facing the Asian elephant today – existence in isolation.

The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI)’s National Elephant Corridor Project identified natural migration paths. The Siju-Rewak Corridor in the Garo Hills offered one case study. It fell within the state of Meghalaya, in the far northeastern corner of India where it bordered Bangladesh. Here the Someshwari (or Simsang) River cut through the Garo Hills, creating a rocky ravine too steep for elephants to cross except in four places. The Trust worked with local communities to set-aside necessary land at choke points so elephants could pass undisturbed. This connected a string of protected properties; Balpharkam National Park, Siju Wildlife Sanctuary, Rewak Reserve Forest and Nokrek National Park (map).


Amboseli-Chyulu Wildlife Corridor


Safari to Amboseli National Park, Kenya
Safari to Amboseli National Park, Kenya. Photo by future15pic on Flickr (cc)

A similar situation existed in eastern Africa. Kenya dealt with multiple dimensions to the problem. Wildlife on the plains required lots of room to roam. Tourism brought a huge economic benefit that depended on healthy, sustainable animals. Nobody would come for a safari experience if there weren’t any marquis species like giraffes, lions, zebras and elephants. Yet the people who lived there also needed land for their survival. Animals got pushed onto parks. The need for corridors became imperative.

As an example, the African Wildlife Federation created the Amboseli-Chyulu Wildlife Corridor. It connected Amboseli National Park, Chyulu Hills and Tsavo West National Park (map). The Federation also used monetary incentives. Local landowners earned payments "for every acre set aside for conservation and safeguarded against poaching, subdivision, and other activities that could degrade habitat."


Mata Atlantica



Brazil’s Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlantica) also faced similar pressures.

The Brazilian Atlantic Forest is one of the most biodiverse forests in the world. 70% of Brazil’s population now lives in the area that was once the Atlantic Forest. Only 7% of the forest remains and in Pontal do Paranapanema that number is down to 3%.

Efforts to create wildlife corridors sprang up in various parts of the nation. In support, non-profit groups such as the World Land Trust purchased acreage that they then donated for conservation purposes. Other groups such as WeForest investigated where animals migrated using GPS collars, then focus on creating corridors along those natural routes. One corridor connected Morro do Diabo State Park (map) and the Iguaçu National Park.


Local Roads


Wildlife Underpass
Wildlife Underpass. Photo by Kurt Bauschardt on Flickr (cc)

Not everything needed to take place on such a gigantic scale. Effective local solutions also existed in many places, for example, in the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada. There on its southern edge sat Larch Sanctuary and the Whitemud Nature Reserve.

Nestled in the middle of Edmonton lies Larch Sanctuary, a section of the Whitemud creek ravine just upstream of its confluence with Blackmud creek. This 58 acre reserve is on the south side of 23rd Avenue, with housing developments at the top of the banks on either side, so it truly is a sanctuary. Despite being right inside a major city, Larch Sanctuary retains remarkable biodiversity.

This was the "only continuously-wooded, relatively-undeveloped stretch of land running through the City," It also contained Edmonton’s only ox bow lake, a topic of particular interest to 12MC. However animals needed a way to get to and from this protected space. They risked being hit on a busy divided highway, Anthony Henday Drive. Thus, the solution centered on constructing a specially constructed underpass (satellite view). Then animals could cross freely.

Great Scott

On November 24, 2016 · 1 Comments

It occurred to me that a great general like Winfield Scott probably influenced place names beyond the recently-featured Scott’s Addition in Richmond, Virginia. Citizens considered him a national hero during his lifetime even if we don’t hear much about him today. This period also coincided with a rapid expansion of population and migration. They needed names for all of those settlements they built on the frontier during the first half of the 19th century.


General Winfield Scott
General Winfield Scott. Photo by David on Flickr (cc).

I wanted to use a better image of Winfield Scott than the unattractive photo of the elderly, bloated man near the end of his life from the previous article. The equestrian statue at Scott Circle in Washington, DC (map) seemed appropriate. Certainly I could uncover more significant geographic designations than a roundabout. How about five Scott counties named for him? They sprouted in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Tennessee and Virginia


Scott County, Iowa


Blackhawk Hotel, Davenport, IA
Blackhawk Hotel, Davenport, IA. Photo by Alan Light on Flickr (cc)

The Iowa county named for Scott probably measured as the most significant. It’s primary city, Davenport (map), held nearly 170 thousand residents.

Winfield Scott’s legendary career covered half a century. He served as a general in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, the Mexican–American War, and the Civil War. His wide ranging exploits inspired place names throughout his lifetime. Scott County, Iowa traced its named to the Black Hawk War that broke out in 1832. He commanded troops during the brief campaign (losing many more men to cholera than warfare) and helped negotiate the treaty that ended it. Much of the fighting unfolded in the vicinity of future Scott County, in neighboring Illinois and Wisconsin. Scott seemed an appropriate figure to honor when Iowa formed the county in 1837, just five years after the war ended.


The Independent State of Scott


Historical Marker: Independent State of Scott
Independent State of Scott. Photo by J. Stephen Conn on Flickr (cc)

An entire Independent State named itself for Scott. It wasn’t really independent though. Nothing official. Scott County, Tennessee traced its beginning to 1814, named for Winfield Scott because of his War of 1812 activities. Geographically, much of it fell within the Appalachian Mountains. People living there farmed small plots on rocky hillsides on the far side of the frontier. They held little in common with people across the mountains and their culture of plantations and slavery. Scott County refused to join the rest of Tennessee when it seceded from the Union during the Civil War. It’s been called the The Switzerland of America both for its mountains and its neutrality.

Scott became a Union enclave, proclaiming itself an Independent State no longer beholden to Tennessee. The county had little strategic importance to either side so the Confederacy never tried to force it back into the fold. Scott did not officially rescind its "independence" from Tennessee until 1986.

The county also founded a town of Winfield (map), so a handful of residents now live in Winfield, Scott. It straddled U.S. Route 27 — Scott Highway.


Named for That Other Winfield Scott


Scottsdale Waterfront
Scottsdale Waterfront. Photo by D. Patrick Lewis on Flickr (cc)

There couldn’t be too many 19th century U.S. Army officers named Winfield Scott, or so I figured. Yet, inexplicably, there was one more. Winfield Scott — the other Winfield Scott — came into this world in 1837. I assumed his parents named him for the more famous Winfield, and the time period seemed to fit. However I didn’t find any evidence to prove it. He became a minister, later accepting a commission as an Army captain and serving as a chaplain during the Civil War. His legacy did not come from his military service.

In mid February of 1888, Winfield Scott was invited to the Salt River Valley in Arizona. Some residents of Phoenix had heard of Scott’s reputation as a promoter and wanted him to help promote Phoenix and the surrounding area. Scott was impressed with the valley and on July 2, 1888 made a down payment of 50 cents an acre for a section of land… His brother, George Washington Scott, came at Winfield Scott’s request to clear the land. He planted 80 acres of barley, 20 acres of vineyards and a 7-acre orchard.

The land he settled became Scottsdale, Arizona (map). Recently Scottsdale erected a statue in his honor (photo).

A quarter-million people live in Scottsdale now and it continues to grow rapidly. Ironically, the most famous place named for Winfield Scott recognized the man who was practically insignificant to American history. They named Winfield, Kansas after him too.

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12 Mile Circle:
An Appreciation of Unusual Places
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